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Murder and mayhem are par for the course on Game of Thrones, but the actor affectionately known to book-reading viewers as Arstan Whitebeard isn’t thrilled with his ultimate place in the HBO show’s circle of life.
Ian McElhinney, who played heroic swordsman Barristan Selmy on Game of Thrones, was outspoken during a recent appearance at MCM London Comic Con about his character’s death early on in season five.
“Truthfully, miffed,” McElhinney said, when asked for his take on his exit. “I was disappointed because I had enjoyed playing the part and I was looking forward to getting more meat in the part and I had to dared to presume that I would at least go into season six.”
Indeed, McElhinney had reason to believe there was more in store for Barristan the Bold: In A Dance with Dragons, the fifth and most recent entry in George R.R. Martin’s series of A Song of Ice and Fire novels on which Thrones is based, Barristan takes on a crucial leadership role once Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) flees Meereen for unknown pastures with her pet dragon Drogon. But on the show, Barristan was killed during an ambush in the fourth episode of season five, well before Dany’s escape.
It was a surprising development, considering Barristan remains alive and active in Martin’s novels. As of the season five finale, Barristan’s role in the books as the war-torn Meereen’s temporary guardian now belongs to Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and Varys (Conleth Hill), two of the most popular figures on the show.
It’s one of a few significant variations between Barristan’s depiction on the series versus his role in the books (season three could have depicted Barristan infiltrating Daenerys‘ inner circle under an alias, the aforementioned Arstan, for instance; the show ultimately opted for a more streamlined version of the story), but clearly the final and ultimately fatal one.
At the time of Barristan’s death, many readers of A Song of Ice and Fire shared McElhinney’s shock and disappointment over the beloved character’s early exit — and even the actor, himself a reader of the Thrones source material, assigns a portion of his frustration on his expectations as a fan.
“I obviously shouldn’t have dared to presume. So be it. The deed is done and I’m onto other things and that’s that. But I do miss it. I would have happily stayed on,” he said.
Game of Thrones returns for its sixth season in the spring.
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